Back in the 1950s president Eisenhower warned the nation about the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex; the ever more powerful relationship between those who make the weapons of war and those who buy and use them. Unfortunately, little attention has been given to Ike’s warning and the MIC is more powerful than ever.
I recently heard an economist state that the cost of Medicare for All could be covered if we ever got serious about reigning in our military budget. America currently spends more on its military that of the world’s nations combined.
The problems range from weapons systems that by design are politically impossible to stop, to the infamous $600 toilet seat.
In spite of countless Congressional hearings, the MIC rolls on and the politicians turn a blind eye to the findings of their investigations. A major reason for the blindness is how the defense industry has structured its manufacturing process. Instead of an F-35 fighter being built in a couple of states the manufacturing has been spread out over a large number of states. With the plane’s manufacture so spread out it’s a rare politician who’s going to criticize and threaten jobs back home.
The same thing is true about base closures. Pick a state, especially a Southern state, and count the number of military facilities contained within it. The state of Florida, for example, is home to twenty-one military bases and I’ll bet you a Snickers bar that all of them cannot be justified. Just as it’s not wise to put all of your eggs in one basket it is also not wise to park all your ships in Norfolk, VA. But how many Navy bases are needed? Do we really need one in Illinois? Do we really need a Naval Air Station in Memphis, TN? Do we need a Marine training base at Paris Island, SC when the same could be done at nearby Camp Lejune, NC? Granted that over the years many bases have been closed, the air reserve base in Clinton County, OH being one. But, but rest assured there will be one hell of a fight if the bean counters ever cast a budget-cutting eye on Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton.
Another aspect of the MIC is the procurement systems and those who are supposed to be guarding the cheese. Countless times in my life I’ve picked up the paper or turned on the TV to learn that the Navy was paying hundreds of dollars for a common claw hammer that Ace Hardware sells for $20. Here are some prices paid for common items back in the 1980s:
- Screwdriver, $285
- Coffee maker, $7,622
- Flat washer $387
- Wrench, $214
- Aluminum ladder, $74,165
- Ashtray, $659
Don’t assume that in 2019 things are better. Senator Chuck Grassley recently came across an Air Force purchase that caught his attention, a metal coffee cup used by flight crews that were costing the taxpayers over $1,200 a piece. Over a three years period, the Air Force spent in excess of $300,000 for what a two-penny Styrofoam cup could do. Grassley is still waiting for an honest explanation from the generals in charge.
These examples are nothing when compared to the cost of a new weapons system. The Navy’s latest boondoggle, the Zumwalt Class Destroyer, cost $23 billion to develop and manufacturer three ships. The Navy planned on a fleet of thirty-two ships but pulled the plug at three. Each ship came with a new artillery system called a railgun. It was supposed to be the end all in naval gunnery. Problems are, it’s too expensive to use. Each specially designed projectile cost between $800,000 and $1,000,000.
What Eisenhower warned us has not been listened to. The bond between the political hawks and the war profiteers in America are stronger than ever, and as we fail to hammer swords into plowshares our citizens are finding it ever more difficult to afford health care, medicine, food, housing, education, and so many basic needs.
In today’s America about 17% of our total federal budget of over $4 trillion goes to the military. That’s near or above $700 billion. Keep in mind this is the money we are spending to pay for and grow the military. It doesn’t take into account that we already have in bases and hardware, and Trump plans to add more to it.